Category Archives: Politics

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Universal Health Care, Social Security, Supreme Court & Women’s Reproductive Rights

Democratic Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders meet for a debate moderated by CNN at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, ahead of the April 19 New York State primary © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Democratic Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders meet for a debate moderated by CNN at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, ahead of the April 19 New York State primary © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Ahead of the April 19 New York State Primary, the gloves came off between the two contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, at what is being called “The Brooklyn Brawl” – the Democratic Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. 

The confrontation was the most contentious to date, but still substantive with both candidates making strong arguments on major issues. 

Here are annotated highlights from the “Brooklyn Brawl” – the debate between Democratic contenders for the nomination for president, former Secretary of State and New York State Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, based on a transcript provided by CNN, the news organization that hosted the debate, April 14. 

In this section, the candidates debate universal health care, free college, the US Supreme Court, and for the first time in all the debates, what the Supreme Court means for women’s reproductive rights. 

Universal Health Care, Free College, Supreme Court

Senator Sanders, you’re promising health care and free college for all, and those plans would be met with both political and practical challenges. The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says your initiatives would cost up to $28 trillion and, even after massive tax increases, that would add as much as $15 trillion to the national debt. How is this fiscally responsible? 

SANDERS: Well, first of all, I disagree with that study. There are many economists who come up with very, very different numbers.

For example, we are the only country, major country on Earth, that does not guarantee health care to all people, and yet we end up spending almost three times what the British do, 50 percent more than the French. My proposal, a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program, will save (APPLAUSE) will save middle-class families many thousands of dollars a year in their health care costs. Public colleges and universities tuition free? Damn right. That is exactly what we should be doing. (APPLAUSE)

“And I’d pay for that — I’d pay for that by telling Wall Street that, yeah, we are going to have a tax on Wall Street speculation, which will bring in more than enough money to provide free tuition at public colleges and universities and lower the outrageous level of student debt.

“Wolf, we have seen in the last 30 years a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the top 0.1 percent. The establishment does not like this idea, but, yes, I am determined to transfer that money back to the working families of this country. (APPLAUSE)

Former Secretary of State and NYS Senator Hillary Clinton © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Former Secretary of State and NYS Senator Hillary Clinton © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

CLINTON: Well, again — again, I absolutely agree with the diagnosis, the diagnosis that we’ve got to do much more to finish the work of getting universal health care coverage, something that I’ve worked on for 25 years. Before there was something called Obamacare, there was something called Hillarycare. And we’re now at 90 percent of coverage; I’m going to get us to 100 percent.

“And with respect to college, I think we have to make college affordable. We are pricing out middle-class, working, and poor families. There’s no doubt about that.

But I do think when you make proposals and you’re running for president, you should be held accountable for whether or not the numbers add up and whether or not the plans (APPLAUSE) are actually going to work.

“And just very briefly, on health care, most of the people who have analyzed what Senator Sanders put out — remember, he had a plan for about, I don’t know, 18, 20 years. He changed in the middle of this campaign. He put out another plan. People have been analyzing the new plan. And there is no doubt by those who have analyzed it, progressive economists, health economists, and the like, that it would pose an incredible burden, not just on the budget, but on individuals. In fact, the Washington Post called it a train-wreck for the poor. A working woman on Medicaid who already has health insurance would be expected to pay about $2,300.  

“The same for free college. The free college offer — you know, my late father said, if somebody promises you something for free, read the fine print. You read the fine print, and here’s what it says.  

“The fine print says this, that it will — the federal government will cover two-thirds of the cost and require the states, even those led by Republican governors to carry out what the remaining one-third of the cost.”

SANDERS: We are not a country that has the courage to stand up to big money and do what has to be done for the working families of the country. (APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: We have a difference of opinion. We both want to get to universal health care coverage. I did stand up to the special interests and the powerful forces, the health insurance companies and the drug companies. (APPLAUSE)

“And perhaps that’s why I am so much in favor of supporting President Obama’s signature accomplishment with the Affordable Care Act, because I know how hard it was to get that passed, even with a Democratic Congress. So rather than letting the Republicans repeal it or rather starting all over again, trying to throw the country into another really contentious debate, let’s make the Affordable Care Act work for everybody let’s get to 100 percent coverage, let’s get the cost down, and let’s guarantee health care.”

Social Security

BLITZER: Secretary, let’s talk about Social Security, another critically important issue. Senator Sanders has challenged you to give a clear answer when it comes to extending the life of Social Security and expanding benefits. Are you prepared to lift the cap on taxable income, which currently stands at $118,500? Yes or no, would you lift the cap? 

CLINTON: I have said repeatedly, Wolf, I am going to make the wealthy pay into Social Security to extend the Social Security Trust Fund. That is one way. If that is the way that we pursue, I will follow that.

“But there are other ways. We should be looking at taxing passive income by wealthy people. We should be looking at taxing all of their investment.

“But here’s the real issue, because I — I’ve heard this, I’ve seen the reports of it. I have said from the very beginning, we are going to protect Social Security. I was one of the leaders in the fight against Bush when he was trying to privatize Social Security.

“But we also, in addition to extending the Trust Fund, which I am absolutely determined to do, we’ve got to help people who are not being taken care of now. And because Social Security started in the 1930s, a lot of women have been left out and left behind.

“And it’s time that we provide more benefits for widows, divorcees, for caregivers, for women who deserve more from the Social Security system and that will be my highest priority.” (APPLAUSE)

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

SANDERS: Now, we’ve got — here is the issue. Your answer has been the same year after year. In fact, the idea that I’m bringing forth, I have to admit it, you know, it wasn’t my idea. It was Barack Obama’s idea in 2008, the exact same idea. (APPLAUSE)

“He called for lifting the cap, which is now higher — it’s at 118 — and starting at 250 and going on up. If you do that, you’re going to extend the life of Social Security for 58 years. You will significantly expand benefits by 1,300 bucks a year for seniors and disabled vets under $16,000 a year. What’s wrong with that? Are you prepared to support it?

CLINTON: I have supported it. You know, we are in vigorous agreement here, Senator.

‘You know, we’re having a discussion about the best way to raise money from wealthy people to extend the Social Security Trust Fund. Think about what the other side wants to do. They’re calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme. They still want to privatize it. In fact, their whole idea is to turn over the Social Security Trust Fund to Wall Street, something you and I would never let happen.

“I’ve said the same thing for years. I didn’t say anything different tonight. We are going to extend the Social Security Trust Fund. There is still something called Congress. Now, I happen to support Democrats and I want to get Democrats to take back the majority in the United States Senate so a lot of — a lot of what we’re talking about can actually be implemented when I am president.”

SANDERS: — maybe I’m a little bit confused.

“Are you or are you not supporting legislation to lift the cap on taxable income and expand Social Security for 58 years and increase benefits…”

CLINTON: I am…

SANDERS: — yes or no?

CLINTON: I have said yes, we are going to pick the best way or combination…

SANDERS: Oh, you — ah. (APPLAUSE) (BOOS)

SANDERS: OK.

CLINTON: — or combination of ways… (BOOS)

CLINTON: — you know… (BOOS)

CLINTON: — it — it’s all — it’s always a little bit, uh, challenging because, you know, if Senator Sanders doesn’t agree with how you are approaching something, then you are a member of the establishment. Well, let me say then…

SANDERS: Well, look (APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: — let me say this (APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: — we are going to extend the Social Security Trust Fund. We’ve got some good ideas to do it. Let’s get a Congress elected that will actually agree with us in doing it. 

SANDERS: Yes, Secretary Clinton (CROSSTALK) you are a member of the establishment. 

Supreme Court

Secretary Clinton, regarding President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme  Court. President Obama said earlier this week that he would not withdraw the nomination, even after the presidential election. If elected, would you ask the president to withdraw the nomination? 

CLINTON: I am not going to contradict the president’s strategy on this. And I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals. I fully support the president. (APPLAUSE)

“And I believe that the president — the president is on the right side of both the Constitution and history. And the Senate needs to immediately begin to respond. So I’m going to support the president. When I am president, I will take stock of where we are and move from there.” 

SANDERS: Well, there is no question. I mean, it really is an outrage. And it just continues, the seven-and-a-half years of unbelievable obstructionism we have seen from these right-wing Republicans.

“I mean, a third-grader in America understands the president of the United States has the right to nominate individuals to the U.S. Supreme Court. Apparently everybody understands that except the Republicans in Congress.

LOUIS: So, Senator Sanders, would you ask him to withdraw the nomination? 

SANDERS: Yes, but here is the point, and obviously i will strongly support that nomination as a member of the Senate. But, if elected president, I would ask the president to withdraw that nomination because I think — I think this.

“I think that we need a Supreme Court justice who will make it crystal clear, and this nominee has not yet done that, crystal clear that he or she will vote to overturn Citizens United and make sure that American democracy is not undermined.” (APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: You know, there is no doubt that the only people that I would ever appoint to the Supreme Court are people who believe that Roe V. Wade is settled law and Citizens United needs to be overturned. 

“And I want to say something about this since we’re talking about the Supreme Court and what’s at stake. We’ve had eight debates before, this is our ninth. We’ve not had one question about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care, not one question. (APPLAUSE)  

“And in the meantime we have states, governors doing everything they can to restrict women’s rights. We have a presidential candidate by the name of Donald Trump saying that women should be punished. And we are never asked about this.  

“And to be complete in my concern, Senator Sanders says with respect to Trump it was a distraction. I don’t think it’s a distraction. It goes to the heart of who we are as women, our rights, our autonomy, our ability to make our own decisions, and we need to be talking about that and defending Planned Parenthood from these outrageous attacks.”  

SANDERS: You’re looking at a senator and former congressman who proudly has a 100 percent pro-choice voting record, who will take on those Republican governors who are trying to restrict a woman’s right to choose, who will take on those governors right now who are discriminating outrageously against the LGBT community, who comes from a state which led the effort for gay marriage in this country, proudly so. (APPLAUSE)  Who not only thinks we are not going to — not defund Planned Parenthood, we’ve got to expand funding for Planned Parenthood. (APPLAUSE)

See also:

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Qualifications, Credibility 

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Gun Violence & Criminal Justice

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Climate Change, Energy & Environment

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate National Security & Foreign Policy

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate US-Israel Relations

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© 2016 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, email editor@news-photos-features.com. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate US-Israel Relations

Democratic Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders meet for a debate moderated by CNN at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, ahead of the April 19 New York State primary © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Democratic Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders meet for a debate moderated by CNN at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, ahead of the April 19 New York State primary © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Ahead of the April 19 New York State Primary, the gloves came off between the two contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, at what is being called “The Brooklyn Brawl” – the Democratic Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. 

The confrontation was the most contentious to date, but still substantive with both candidates making strong arguments on major issues. 

Here are annotated highlights from the “Brooklyn Brawl” – the debate between Democratic contenders for the nomination for president, former Secretary of State and New York State Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, based on a transcript provided by CNN, the news organization that hosted the debate, April 14. 

Of all the issues raised during the Brooklyn debate, the only one of particular importance to the New York primary voters raised concerned US-Israel Relations. It also inspired surprising reaction from the audience. 

US-Israel Relations 

BLITZER: Senator, let’s talk about the U.S. relationship with Israel. Senator Sanders, you maintained that Israel’s response in Gaza in 2014 was, quote, “disproportionate and led to the unnecessary loss of innocent life.” (APPLAUSE) What do you say to those who believe that Israel has a right to defend itself as it sees fit?  

SANDERS: Well, as somebody who spent many months of my life when I was a kid in Israel, who has family in Israel, of course Israel has a right not only to defend themselves, but to live in peace and security without fear of terrorist attack. That is not a debate. (APPLAUSE)

“But — but what you just read, yeah, I do believe that. Israel was subjected to terrorist attacks, has every right in the world to destroy terrorism. But we had in the Gaza area — not a very large area — some 10,000 civilians who were wounded and some 1,500 who were killed.

“Now, if you’re asking not just me, but countries all over the world was that a disproportionate attack, the answer is that I believe it was, and let me say something else. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING) As somebody who is 100% pro-Israel, in the long run — and this is not going to be easy, God only knows, but in the long run if we are ever going to bring peace to that region which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)

“So what is not to say — to say that right now in Gaza, right now in Gaza unemployment is s somewhere around 40%. You got a log of that area continues, it hasn’t been built, decimated, houses decimated health care decimated, schools decimated. I believe the United States and the rest of the world have got to work together to help the Palestinian people. That does not make me anti-Israel. That paves the way, I to an approach that works in the Middle East.”  (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)

BLITZER: Secretary Clinton, do you agree with Senator Sanders that Israel overreacts to Palestinians attacks, and that in order for there to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel must, quote, end its disproportionate responses?

CLINTON: I negotiated the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in November of 2012. I did it in concert with (APPLAUSE) President Abbas of the Palestinian authority based in Ramallah, I did it with the then Muslim Brotherhood President, Morsi, based in Cairo, working closely with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli cabinet. I can tell you right now I have been there with Israeli officials going back more than 25 years that they do not seek this kind of attacks. They do not invite the rockets raining down on their towns and villages. (APPLAUSE)

“They do not believe that there should be a constant incitement by Hamas aided and abetted by Iran against Israel. And, so when it came time after they had taken the incoming rockets, taken the assaults and ambushes on their soldiers and they called and told me, I was in Cambodia, that they were getting ready to have to invade Gaza again because they couldn’t find anybody to talk to tell them to stop it, I flew all night, I got there, I negotiated that.

“So, I don’t know how you run a country when you are under constant threat, terrorist tact, rockets coming at you. You have a right to defend yourself. [She said with increasing assertiveness.] (APPLAUSE)

“That does not mean — that does not mean that you don’t take appropriate precautions. And, I understand that there’s always second guessing anytime there is a war. It also does not mean that we should not continue to do everything we can to try to reach a two-state solution, which would give the Palestinians the rights and…” 

BLITZER: … Thank you…

CLINTON: … just let me finish. The rights and the autonomy that they deserve. And, let me say this, if Yasser Arafat had agreed with my husband at Camp David in the Late 1990s to the offer then Prime Minister Barat put on the table, we would have had a Palestinian state for 15 years. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)

“…of course there have to be precautions taken but even the most independent analyst will say the way that Hamas places its weapons, the way that it often has its fighters in civilian garb, it is terrible. (AUDIENCE REACTION)

“I’m not saying it’s anything other than terrible…remember, Israel left Gaza. They took out all the Israelis. They turned the keys over to the Palestinian people.  And what happened? Hamas took over Gaza.

“So instead of having a thriving economy with the kind of opportunities that the children of the Palestinians deserve, we have a terrorist haven that is getting more and more rockets shipped in from Iran and elsewhere.”  

Sanders then attacked Clinton for not “discussing the needs of the Palestinian people,” in her speech to AIPAC, the American-Jewish organization that lobbies on behalf of Israel.

CLINTON: Well, if I — I want to add, you know, again describing the problem is a lot easier than trying to solve it. And I have been involved, both as first lady with my husband’s efforts, as a senator supporting the efforts that even the Bush administration was undertaking, and as secretary of state for President Obama, I’m the person who held the last three meetings between the president of the Palestinian Authority and the prime minister of Israel.

“There were only four of us in the room, Netanyahu, Abbas, George Mitchell, and me. Three long meetings. And I was absolutely focused on what was fair and right for the Palestinians.

“I was absolutely focused on what we needed to do to make sure that the Palestinian people had the right to self-government. And I believe that as president I will be able to continue to make progress and get an agreement that will be fair both to the Israelis and the Palestinians without ever, ever undermining Israel’s security.” (APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: There comes a time — there comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.”

CLINTON: If you are from whatever perspective trying to seek peace, trying to create the conditions for peace when there is a terrorist group embedded in Gaza that does not want to see you exist, that is a very difficult challenge. 

Sanders Strategist Weighs In

In the spin room after the debate, Sanders’ campaign strategist Tad Devine was asked whether Sanders’ comments about Israel could get him into trouble in New York?

Bernie Sanders campaign strategist Tad Devine © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Bernie Sanders campaign strategist Tad Devine © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“The thing about Bernie Sanders is he doesn’t give answers to seek political advantage. He says what he believes. And I think he believes sincerely – and this is from someone who is Jewish, someone who spent 6 months on a kibbutz in Israel, who has a number of family members there –  he believes the best way forward for peace is the one he described tonight. I would just suggest that the answers he gives not just on that issue, but a number of issues, are not given for political calculation but are given because  this is what he believes.”

Next: Universal Health Care, Free College, Supreme Court

 

See also:

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Qualifications, Credibility 

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Gun Violence & Criminal Justice

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Climate Change, Energy & Environment

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate National Security & Foreign Policy

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© 2016 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, email editor@news-photos-features.com. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Obama Warns Senate Republicans’ that Politicization of SCOTUS Confirmation Will Undermine Credibility of Court

President Obama has a right and a duty to nominate a replacement to Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court and the Senate has a duty to hold hearings and take a vote. © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Obama has a right and a duty to nominate a replacement to Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court and the Senate has a duty to hold hearings and take a vote.
© 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

With the care and consideration of a Constitutional lawyer, President Obama laid out his argument for his authority and responsibility to nominate a Justice to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by the death of Antonin Scalia, and the Senate’s obligation and responsibility to “advise” and hold a vote. 

He chastised – and warned – about the politicization of the process which ultimately undermines “the credibility” and the authority of the Supreme Court, itself, just as the ability of government to function has been undermined by extreme partisanship and polarization: 

“If, in fact, the Republicans in the Senate take a posture that defies the Constitution, defies logic, is not supported by tradition simply because of politics, then invariably what you’re going to see is a further deterioration in the ability of any President to make any judicial appointments,” President Obama said. “And appointments to the Supreme Court as well as the federal bench suddenly become a complete extension of our polarized politics…the credibility of the Court itself begins to diminish because it’s viewed simply as an extension of our politics.” 

Here’s the full transcript of Obama’s comments on the Supreme Court process. He spoke at length – about 10 minutes – in answer to a question at a press conference: 

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, the Constitution says that I nominate candidates for the Supreme Court when there’s a vacancy, and that the Senate exercises its constitutional role in advise and consent.  I’m going to do my job.  We are going to go through a process, as we have done in two previous Supreme Court vacancies, to identify an outstanding candidate that has impeccable legal credentials and would bring the kind of ability and compassion and objectivity and legal reasoning to the Court that the Highest Court in the Land demands.

One side made the nomination, and then Leader McConnell and all the members of the Senate are going to make a decision about how do they fulfill their constitutional responsibilities.  I recognize the politics are hard for them, because the easier thing to do is to give in to the most extreme voices within their party and stand pat and do nothing.  But that’s not our job.  Our job is to fulfill our constitutional duties.

And so my hope and expectation is that once there is an actual nominee and once this is no longer an abstraction, that those on the Judiciary Committee recognize that their job is to give this person a hearing, to show the courtesy of meeting with them.  They are then free to vote whatever their conscience dictates as to whether this person is qualified or not.  In the meantime, the American people are going to have the ability to gauge whether the person I’ve nominated is well within the mainstream, is a good jurist, is somebody who’s worthy to sit on the Supreme Court.

And I think it will be very difficult for Mr. McConnell to explain how, if the public concludes that this person is very well qualified, that the Senate should stand in the way simply for political reasons.  We’ll see what happens.  And I think the situation may evolve over time.  I don’t expect Mitch McConnell to say that is the case today.  I don’t expect any member of the Republican caucus to stick their head out at the moment and say that.  But let’s see how the public responds to the nominee that we put forward.

The one thing I think is important to dispel is any notion that somehow this is some well-established tradition, or some constitutional principle that a President in his last year of office cannot fill the Supreme Court vacancy.  It’s not in the text of the Constitution.  Ironically, these are Republicans who say they believe in reading the text of the Constitution and focusing on the intent of the Constitution.  But none of the Founding Fathers thought that when it comes to the President carrying out his duties, he should do it for three years and then on the last year stop doing it.

There’s an argument that, well, the President shouldn’t do this because he is a lame duck.  Well, the truth of the matter is, is that traditionally the term “lame duck” refers to the two or three months after an election has taken place in which a new President is about to be sworn in.  I’ve got a year to go.  I don’t think they would approve of me abdicating on my duties as Commander-in-Chief and to stop doing all the other work that I got to do.  Well, this is part of my job. 

There’s been arguments that for 80 years this has been the tradition.  Well, that’s not the case.  Justice Kennedy was approved after being nominated by Ronald Reagan in Ronald Reagan’s last year of office.  They say, well, that’s different because he had been nominated in 1987, even if he was confirmed — or ’85 — even if he was confirmed in ’86.  Well, the notion that there is some two-month period in which suddenly it all flips and everything shuts down, that’s not a credible argument.

What other arguments are they making?  They suggest that, well, there had been a couple of times where Democrats said it would be wise for a President not to nominate someone.  First of all, we know senators say stuff all the time.  Second of all, these were comments that were made where there was no actual nomination at stake.  So it has no application to the actual situation that we have right now.

I’m trying to think of any other reeds that they’re grasping here as to why they would not carry out their duties.  And I can’t really think of one.

I recognize that this is an important issue for their constituencies, and it’s particularly sensitive because this was Justice Scalia’s seat that is now vacant and that a whole host of decisions on the Supreme Court could turn on this ninth justice and their vote.

But that’s how our democracy is supposed to work.  And what I do — the last point I’ll make — we have already seen a breakdown of the judicial appointment process that gets worse and worse each and every year, each and every Congress.  It becomes harder and harder to get any candidates for the judiciary confirmed.  We saw Senator Reid have to employ the so-called “nuclear option” because there was such a logjam in terms of getting judicial appointments through.

If, in fact, the Republicans in the Senate take a posture that defies the Constitution, defies logic, is not supported by tradition simply because of politics, then invariably what you’re going to see is a further deterioration in the ability of any President to make any judicial appointments.  And appointments to the Supreme Court as well as the federal bench suddenly become a complete extension of our polarized politics.

And at that point, not only are you going to see more and more vacancies and the court systems break down, but the credibility of the Court itself begins to diminish because it’s viewed simply as an extension of our politics — this is a Republican judge or this is a Democratic judge, as opposed to, this is a Supreme Court justice who is supposed to be standing above the day-to-day politics that take place.

So I understand the posture that they’re taking right now.  I get the politics of it.  I’m sure they’re under enormous pressure from their base and their constituencies around this issue.  I’ve talked to many of them, and I’ve told them I’m sympathetic.  And, by the way, there’s not a lot of vigor when they defend the position that they’re taking, that they wouldn’t even meet, for example, with a Supreme Court nominee.  They’re pretty sheepish about it when they make those comments.

So we’ll see how this plays itself out.  But I’m going to do my job.  I’m going to nominate somebody and let the American people decide as to whether that person is qualified.  And if they are qualified, let the American people decide whether there’s enough time for the U.S. Senate to hold hearings and have a vote.  It’s not as if, from what I see, the Senate calendar is so full that we don’t have time to get this done.

In contrast to GOP Opponents, Hillary Clinton Presents ‘360 Degree Strategy to Keep America Safe’

Hillary Clinton, Democratic candidate for president, detailing a "360 degree strategy to keep America safe," said that shallow slogans don’t add up to a strategy, and bluster and bigotry are not credentials for becoming commander-in-chief © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Hillary Clinton, Democratic candidate for president, detailing a “360 degree strategy to keep America safe,” said that shallow slogans don’t add up to a strategy, and bluster and bigotry are not credentials for becoming commander-in-chief © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We’ve heard a whole lot from the Republican presidential hopefuls, one more absurd than another, of what they would do to “keep our nation safe” – devoting an entire 2 hour debate to the subject. Donald Trump would bring back waterboarding and torture, would kill family members of suspected terrorists. Ted Cruz would “carpet bomb” cities held by ISIS, even if there are tens of thousands of civilians being occupied by the terrorists. Chris Christie, staring into a camera to “intimidate” Vladimir Putin, says he would create a no-fly zone and shoot down any Russian plane that penetrates it (“That’s great if you want a candidate to start World War III,” was Rand Paul’s response.) Carly Fiorina would rehire generals who have resigned or retired.

And yet, Republicans in Congress refuse to do some of the most basic things to actually keep us safe. Senate Republicans have blocked the confirmation – and gone home for the holidays – of Adam Szubin as the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, the post in charge of tracking down and stopping the funds going to terrorist organizations. And Republicans in both houses have blocked legislation which would keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists on the no-fly list (if there is a problem with the list, they should fix it by giving the individual recourse to defend themselves, and that would be sufficient in fact to uncover actual terrorists).  But there is no common sense. It makes you wonder whether Republicans like an atmosphere of terror because they think that fear whips up votes in their favor.

The Republicans also have been stingy in funding the very services they are faulting for being inadequate – visa services, State Department security (Benghazi, Benghazi).

But in a speech on the same day as the Republican debate, December 15, Hillary Clinton,  Democratic candidate, gave a thoughtful speech outlining her previously stated overall anti-terrorism strategy, and a more intensively focused “360-degree strategy to keep America safe.” The speech received virtually no coverage, but she repeated the strategy in an op-ed published December 18.

Hillary for America released a new web video comparing Hillary Clinton’s recent remarks in Minnesota with Republican candidates, who were exposed as unfit and ill-prepared during this week’s Republican debate. In the remarks, Clinton said that shallow slogans don’t add up to a strategy, and bluster and bigotry are not credentials for becoming commander-in-chief. Republican candidates, on the other hand, have offered fear instead of facts. (Here are some other reviews of the Republicans’ performance this week HERE)

Here are highlights from Hillary Clinton’s speech in Minneapolis:

“I want to begin by saying, we cannot give in to fear.  We can’t let it stop us from doing what is right and necessary to make us safe, and doing it in way that is consistent with our values.

We cannot let fear push us into reckless actions that end up making us less safe.  Americans are going to have to act with both courage and clarity…..

 

The threat we face is daunting.  But America has overcome big challenges many times before.  Throughout our history, we’ve stared into the face of evil and refused to blink.  We beat Fascism, won the Cold War, brought Osama bin Laden to justice.

So no one should ever underestimate the determination of the American people.  And I am confident we will once again choose resolve over fear.  And we will defeat these new enemies, just as we’ve defeated those who’ve threatened us in the past.

Because it is not enough to contain ISIS, we must defeat ISIS, break its momentum and then its back.  And not just ISIS, but the broader radical jihadist movement that also includes al Qaeda and offshoots like al Shabaab in Somalia.

Now, waging and winning this fight will require serious leadership.  But unfortunately, our political debate has been anything but serious.

We can’t afford another major ground war in the Middle East.  That’s exactly what ISIS wants from us.  Shallow slogans don’t add up to a strategy.  Promising to carpet bomb until the desert glows doesn’t make you sound strong, it makes you sound like you’re in over your head.  Bluster and bigotry are not credentials for becoming Commander-in-Chief.

And it is hard to take seriously senators who talk tough but then hold up key national security nominations, including the top official at the Treasury Department responsible for disrupting terrorist financing.

Every day that’s wasted on partisan gridlock could put Americans in danger.  So, yes, we need a serious discussion.  And that’s why in a speech last month before the Council on Foreign Relations I laid out a three-part plan to defeat ISIS and the broader extremist movement.

One, defeat ISIS in the Middle East by smashing its stronghold, hitting its fighters, leaders, and infrastructure from the air, and intensifying support for local forces who can pursue them on the ground.

Second, defeat them around the world by dismantling the global network of terror that supplies radical jihadists with money, arms, propaganda, and fighters.

And third, defeat them here at home by foiling plots, disrupting radicalization, and hardening our defenses.

Now, these three lines of effort reinforce one another.  So we need to pursue all of them at once, using every pillar of American power.

It will require skillful diplomacy to continue Secretary Kerry’s efforts to encourage political reconciliation in Iraq and political transition in Syria, enabling more Sunni Arabs and Kurdish fighters to take on ISIS on both sides of the border, and to get our Arab and Turkish partners to actually step up and do their part.

It will require more U.S. and allied airpower, and a broader target set for strikes by planes and drones, with proper safeguards.

It will require Special Operations units to advise and train local forces and conduct key counterterrorism missions.

What it will not require is tens of thousands of American combat troops.  That is not the right action for us to take in this situation.

So there is a lot to do, and today, I want to focus on the third part of my plan, how we defend our country and prevent radicalization here at home.

We need a comprehensive strategy to counter each step in the process that can lead to an attack like the one in San Bernardino.

First, we have to shut down ISIS recruitment in the United States, especially online.

Second, stop would-be jihadists from getting training overseas, and stop foreign terrorists from coming here.

Third, discover and disrupt plots before they can be carried out.

Fourth, support law enforcement officers who risk their lives to prevent and respond to attacks.

And fifth, empower our Muslim-American communities, who are on the front-lines of the fight against radicalization.

This is a 360-degree strategy to keep America safe, and I want to walk through each of the elements, from recruitment to training to planning to execution.

First, shutting down recruitment.  We have to stop jihadists from radicalizing new recruits in-person and through social media, chat rooms, and what’s called the “Dark Web.”

To do that, we need stronger relationships between Washington, Silicon Valley, and all of our great tech companies and entrepreneurs.  American innovation is a powerful force, and we have to put it to work defeating ISIS.

That starts with understanding where and how recruitment happens.  Our security professionals need to more effectively track and analyze ISIS’s social media posts and map jihadist networks, and they need help from the tech community.

Companies should redouble their efforts to maintain and enforce their own service agreements and other necessary policies to police their networks, identifying extremist content and removing it.

Now, many are already doing this, and sharing those best practices more widely is important.

At the State Department, I started an interagency center to combat violent jihadist messages, to have a better way to communicate on behalf of our values, and to give young people drawn to those messages an alternative narrative.

We recruited specialists fluent in Arabic, Urdu, and Somali to wave online battles with extremists to counter their propaganda.

Now, those efforts have not kept pace with the threat, so we need to step up our game, in partnership with the private sector and credible moderate voices outside government.

But that’s just some of what we have to do.  Experts from the FBI, the intelligence community, Homeland Security, DOD, the State Department, and the technology industry should work together to develop a unified national strategy to defeat ISIS in cyberspace, using all of our capabilities to deny jihadists virtual territory, just as we work to deny them actual territory.

And at the same time, we also have to do more to address the challenge of radicalization, whatever form it takes.

It’s imperative that the Saudis, the Qataris, the Kuwaitis and others stop their citizens from supporting radical schools, madrassas and mosques around the world, once and for all, and that should be the top priority in all of our discussions with these countries.

Now, second, we have to prevent ISIS recruits from training abroad, and prevent foreign jihadists from coming here.

Most urgent is stemming the flow of fighters from Europe and America to Iraq and Syria, and then back home again.

The United States and our allies need to know the identities of every fighter who makes that trip, and then share information with each other in real time.

Right now, European nations don’t always alert each other when they turn away a suspected extremist at the border or when a passport is stolen.  They have to dramatically improve intelligence sharing and counterterrorism cooperation.  And we’re ready to help them do that.

We also need to take down the network of enablers who help jihadists finance and facilitate their travel, forge documents, and evade detection.  And the United States and our allies should commit to revoke the passports and visas of jihadists who have gone to join ISIS or other groups, and bring the full force of law against them.

As I’ve said before, the United States has to take a close look at our visa programs.  And I am glad the administration and Congress are stepping up scrutiny in the wake of San Bernardino.  And that should include scrutinizing applicants’ social media postings.  We also should dispatch more Homeland Security agents to high-risk countries to better investigate visa applicants.

For many years, America has waived visa requirements for travelers from countries with reliable security procedures, including key allies in Europe and Asia.  That makes sense.  But we also have to be smart.  Except for limited exceptions like diplomats and aid workers, anyone who has traveled in the past five years to a country facing serious problems with terrorism and foreign fighters should have to go through a full visa investigation, no matter where they’re from.

We also have to be vigilant in screening and vetting refugees from Syria, guided by the best judgment of our security and diplomatic professionals.  Rigorous vetting already takes place while these refugees are still overseas, and it’s a process that historically takes 18 to 24 months.

But Congress needs to provide enough resources to ensure we have sufficient personnel deployed to run the most thorough possible process.

And just as important, we cannot allow terrorists to intimidate us into abandoning our values and our humanitarian obligations.

Turning away orphans, applying a religious test that discriminates against Muslims, slamming the door on every single Syrian refugee; that is not who we are.  We are better than that.

It would be a cruel irony indeed if ISIS can force families from their homes and then also prevent them from finding new ones.  So after rigorous screening, we should welcome families fleeing Syria just as the Twin Cities and this state have welcomed previous generations of refugees, exiles, and immigrants.

Of course, the key is to prevent terrorists also from exploiting our compassion and endangering our security.  But we can do this.  And I think we must.

Third, we have to discover and disrupt jihadist plots before they can be carried out.  This is going to take better intelligence collection, analysis, and sharing.  I’ve proposed an “intelligence surge” against ISIS that includes more operations officers and linguists, enhancing our technical surveillance of overseas targets, intercepting terrorist communications, flying more reconnaissance missions to track terrorists’ movements, and developing even closer partnerships with other intelligence services.

President Obama recently signed the USA Freedom Act, which was passed by a bipartisan majority in Congress.  It protects civil liberties while maintaining capabilities that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies need to keep us safe.  However, the new law is now under attack from presidential candidates on the left and right.  Some would strip away crucial counterterrorism tools, even with appropriate judicial and congressional oversight.  Others seem eager to go back to discredited practices of the past.

I don’t think we can afford to let either view prevail.  Now, encryption of mobile devices and communications does present a particularly tough problem with important implications for security and civil liberties.  Law enforcement and counterterrorism professionals warn that impenetrable encryption may make it harder for them to investigate plots and prevent future attacks.  On the other hand, there are very legitimate worries about privacy, network security, and creating new vulnerabilities that bad actors can exploit.

I know there’s no magic fix to this dilemma that will satisfy all these concerns.  But we can’t just throw up our hands.  The tech community and the government have to stop seeing each other as adversaries and start working together to keep us safe from terrorists.   And even as we make sure law enforcement officials get the tools they need to prevent attacks, it’s essential that we also make sure jihadists don’t get the tools they need to carry out attacks.

It defies common sense that Republicans in Congress refuse to make it harder for potential terrorists to buy guns.  If you’re too dangerous to fly, you’re too dangerous to buy a gun, period.   And we should insist on comprehensive background checks and close loopholes that allow potential terrorists to buy weapons online or at gun shows.  And I think it’s time to restore the ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

I know this will drive some of our Republican friends a little crazy.  You’ll probably hear it tonight.  They will say that guns are a totally separate issue, nothing to do with terrorism.  Well, I have news for them, terrorists use guns to kill Americans.  And I think we should make it a lot harder for them from to do that ever again.

And there’s a question, a question they should be asked:  Why don’t the Republican candidates want to do that?   You see, I have this old fashioned idea that we elect a President in part, in large part, to keep us safe, from terrorists, from gun violence, from whatever threatens our families and communities.  And I’m not going to let the gun lobby or anyone else tell me that’s not the right path for us to go down.

Now, the fourth element in my strategy is supporting law enforcement officers who risk their lives to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks.

In San Bernardino, city, county, state, and federal authorities acted with speed and courage to prevent even more loss of life.  Like Detective Jorge Lozano, a 15-year police veteran, who assured terrified civilians, “I’ll take a bullet before you do.”  There is no limit to the gratitude we owe to law enforcement professionals like that Detective Lozano who run toward danger to try to save lives.  And not just in the immediate wake of an attack.  Our police, firefighters, and emergency responders will keep putting their lives on the line long after the cameras move on.

It’s disgraceful that Congress has thus far failed to keep faith with first responders suffering from the lasting health effects of 9/11.  Many of them were men and women I was so proud to represent as a Senator from New York.  The Zadroga 9/11 Health Act never should have been allowed to lapse.  It looks like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may have finally dropped his opposition.  And I hope the American people will hold him to that.  And we will continue to honor the service and sacrifice of those who responded to the worst terrorist attack in our history.

We have to make sure that local law enforcement has the resources and training they need to keep us safe.  And they should be more closely synced up with national counterterrorism experts, including with better use of “fusion centers” that serve as clearinghouses for intelligence and coordination.

And we need to strengthen our defenses and our resilience wherever we’re vulnerable, whether it’s “soft targets” like shopping malls or higher-profile targets like airports, railways, or power plants.  We have to build on the progress of the Obama Administration in locking down loose nuclear materials, and other WMD, so they never fall into the hands of terrorists who seek them actively around the world.

So we should be providing the Department of Homeland Security with the resources it needs to stay one step ahead, not trying to privatize key functions, like TSA, as some Republicans have proposed.

And it’s important for us to recognize that when we talk about law enforcement, we have made progress in being sure that our federal authorities share information with our state and local authorities, but that was an issue I tackled after 9/11, and we have to stay really vigilant so that information is in the hands where it needs to be.

Finally, the fifth element in the strategy is empowering Muslim-American communities who are on the front-lines of the fight against radicalization.  There are millions of peace-loving Muslims living, working, raising families, and paying taxes in our country.  These Americans may be our first, last, and best defense against home grown radicalization and terrorism.  They are the most likely to recognize the insidious effects of radicalization before it’s too late, intervene to help set a young person straight.  They are the best positioned to block anything going forward.

That’s why law enforcement has worked so hard since 9/11 to build up trust and strong relationships within Muslim-American communities.  Here in the Twin Cities, you have an innovative partnership that brings together parents, teachers, imams, and others in the Somali-American community with law enforcement, non-profits, local businesses, mental health professionals and others to intervene with young people who are at risk.

It’s called the Building Community Resilience Pilot Program, and it deserves increased support.  It has not gotten the financial resources that it needs to do everything the people involved in it know they can do.  And we’ve got to do a better job of supporting it.

Now I know that like many places across the country, there’s more work to do to increase trust between communities and law enforcement.  Just last month, I know here a young African American man was fatally shot by a police officer.  And I understand an investigation is underway.  Whatever the outcome, tragedies like this raise hard questions about racial justice in America and put at risk efforts to build the community relationships that help keep us safe from crime and from terrorism.

When people see that respect and trust are two-way streets, they’re more likely to work hand-in-hand with law enforcement.  One of the mothers of the 10 men recently charged with conspiring with terrorists said, “We have to stop the denial,” she told other parents that.  “We have to talk to our kids and work with the FBI.”  That’s a message we need to hear from leaders within Muslim-American communities across our country.

But we also want to highlight the successes in Muslim American communities, and there are so many of them.  I just met with the first Somali-American council member of the City Council here.  And he was proudly telling me how much change Somali immigrants, now Muslim-Americans have made in parts of the city and neighborhoods that had been pretty much hollowed out.  Let’s look at the successes.

If we’re going to full integrate everyone into America, then we need to be seeing all their contributions, too.  And that is one of the many reasons why we must all stand up against offensive, inflammatory, hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric.  You know, not only do these comments cut against everything we stand for as Americans, they are also dangerous.

As the Director of the FBI told Congress recently, anything that erodes trust with Muslim-Americans makes the job of law enforcement more difficult.  We need every community invested in this fight, not alienated and sitting on the sidelines.

One of the community leaders I met with told me that a lot of the children in the community are now afraid to go to school.  They’re not only afraid of being perceived as a threat, they are afraid of being threatened because of who they are.  This is such a open-hearted and generous community, I hope there will be even more efforts perhaps under the aegis of the university and certainly Governor Dayton and others, to bring people together to reassure members of the community, particularly children and teenagers that they are welcome, invited and valued here in this city and state.

Now Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States has rightly sparked outrage across our country and around the world.  Even some of the other Republican candidates are saying he’s gone too far.  But the truth is, many of those same candidates have also said disgraceful things about Muslims.  And this kind of divisive rhetoric actually plays into the hands of terrorists.  It alienates partners and undermines moderates we need around the world in the fight against ISIS.

You know, you hear a lot of talk from some of the other candidates about coalitions.  Everyone seems to want one.  But there’s not nearly as much talk about what it actually takes to build a coalition and make it work.  I know how hard this is because I’ve done it.  And I can tell you, insulting potential allies doesn’t make it any easier.

And demonizing Muslims also feeds a narrative that jihadists use to recruit new followers around the world, that the United States is at war with Islam.  As both the Pentagon and the FBI have said in the past week, we cannot in any way lend credence to that twisted idea.  This is not a clash of civilizations.  It’s a clash between civilization and barbarism and that’s how it must be seen and fought.

Some will tell you that our open society is a vulnerability in the struggle against terrorism.  I disagree.  I believe our tolerance and diversity are at the core of our strength.  At a Naturalization ceremony for new citizens today in Washington, President Obama noted the tension throughout our history between welcoming or rejecting the stranger.  It is, he said, about the meaning of America, what kind of country do we want to be?  And it’s about the capacity of each generation to honor the creed as old as our founding, E Pluribus Unum.  Out of many we are one.

President Obama is right, and it matters.  It’s no coincidence that American Muslims have long been better integrated and less susceptible to radicalization than Muslims in less welcoming countries.  We can’t give in to demagogues who play on our basest instincts.  We must instead rely on the principles written into our American DNA.  Freedom.  Equality.  Opportunity.

America is strongest when all our people believe they have a stake in our country and our future, no matter where they’re from, what they look like, how they worship, or who they love.  Our country was founded by people fleeing religious persecution.  As George Washington put it, the United States gives “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”  So to all our Muslim-American brothers and sisters, this is your country too.  And I am proud to be your fellow American.

And I want to remind us, particularly our Republican friends, that George W. Bush was right.  Six days after 9/11 he went to a Muslim community center and here’s what he said, those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take their anger don’t represent the best of America, they represent the worst of human kind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior….

“We are Americans.”  We are the greatest nation on earth not in spite of the challenges we’ve faced, but because of them.  Americans will not buckle or break.  We will not turn on each other or turn on our principles.  We will pursue our enemies with unyielding power and purpose.  We will crush their would-be caliphate and counter radical jihadism wherever it takes root.  We’re in it for the long haul.  And we’ll stand taller and stronger than they can possibly imagine.

That’s what we do here.  It’s who we are.  That’s how we’ll win, by looking at one another with respect, with concern, with commitment.  That’s the America that I know makes us all so proud to be a part of.”

Spate of Gun Deaths Embolden Dems to Call for Universal Background Checks But More is Needed

Gun violence prevention advocates won one victory in May – Oregon passed universal background checks – but suffered a bigger loss, as Texas voted to allow concealed carry of guns on campuses of public colleges across the state. This is despite the fact that the most famous thing to happen at the University of Texas-Austin was the first mass shooting in America, on August 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman climbed the University of Texas Tower and used a sniper to kill 16 and wound 31.

Ironically, Oregon, which allows concealed carry on college campuses, just this month was the setting for the latest campus massacre.

Also this month, a six year old murdered his three-year old sibling with his father’s gun, kept loaded, atop their refrigerator.

Indeed, roughly every week, a toddler is killed or kills with a gun. How many more are added to the list, provided in mid-April by Colette Martin, of Moms Demand Action, which had already produced 11 children under the age of 15 who had been shot accidentally so far that month.

“It’s shocking to me – as I investigate laws at states – because the federal is useless – depending on zipcode, leaving a loaded gun on a coffee table is either a crime or nothing,” Martin told a Gun Violence Prevention forum at Temple Beth-el of Great Neck, “That’s why we read stories every day that a child is shot accidentally. We are not talking suicide or domestic violence.”

Her list included 5 year olds shooting 2 year olds; a 15 year old in Brooklyn who shot himself in the chest; in Houston, a 5 year old was shot by 4 year old (the fourth in 3 weeks); a mom’s boyfriend, cleaning his gun, accidentally shot a 9 year old.

“The NRA won’t tell you but two children a week will die this way, through accidental gunshot wounds – many more hurt, life changing injuries – a pattern so predictable. Over 100 kids a year will be dead because someone didn’t store gun properly.

“Is there any product that kills that many kids that we’re not regulating?

“It should be a crime to leave a loaded gun accessible to children –a punishable crime. That is a glaring omission from New York’s Safe Act,” she says.

That’s also the basis for a proposed law in New York, Nicholas’ Law – named for a 12 year old killed by playing at friend’s house where unsecured loaded gun and friend shot him, accidentally.

Other legislative actions that need to happen nationally:

Repealing laws that ban pediatricians from raising questions about guns in the home and recommending they be locked up (such as in Florida).

Repealing Stand Your Ground (aka “License to Kill”), another law written by the NRA and ALEC (a front for the Koch Brothers) and spread like cancer among the states, starting in Florida under then-Governor Jeb Bush.

Changing the requirements to purchase and possess guns. Norman Siegel, a New York civil rights lawyer and former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, in a letter to the New York Times in December proposed a nationwide state registration program, similar to motor vehicle registration. “Every two years the owner of a gun would be required to bring his or her weapon in for inspection and re-registration. If the owner no longer possesses the weapon, he or she should be required to explain what happened to the gun. Perhaps under such a program we, as a nation, can realistically ameliorate the problem of guns winding up in the hands of lawbreakers and/or the mentally ill.”

And for those who charge that gun registration is somehow violating 2nd Amendment rights, look to the oppressive Voter ID and registration requirements being passed around the country which effectively put barriers in front of citizens’ right to vote.

Moreover, gun rights fanatics have no problem cancelling out the First Amendment’s freedom of speech in banning pediatricians from discussing gun safety with their patients’ families.

Gun violence is not a 2nd amendment issue. It is a public health issue, and should be treated in the same way. And if anything violates the founding premise of this country, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” it is the outsized weight given to so-called gun rights which never actually existed.

“This family’s only child is gone. It’s not just a legislative change, it’s part of the cultural change – the social norming that has to happen as with drunk driving,” she says, referring to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the way they insinuated a kind of moral code into everyday life.

Governor Cuomo seized upon the massacre Sandy Hook Elementary School as a rare moment when he could pass Safe Act.

But other states – the gun happy ones, the free-range ones, the Live Free or Die ones (and so they die) – have gone the other way – in Florida, doctors are banned (no matter the inconvenient First Amendment guaranteeing free speech, or even the Hippocratic oath) from even asking parents if there is a gun in the home, in order to urge safe storage to prevent such tragedies as Nicholas’ and the others, a move that is being copied by other states, prompting New York Times columnist Charles Blow to raise the question, “Has the NRA Won?”

And the real challenge is the latest move by the NRA in the bought-and-paid-for Congress: to force states with gun regulations to have “reciprocity” – essentially to make a gun permit like a drivers license – with states that have virtually no restrictions (and in the case of one Georgia town, which mandate every family have a gun) – in a blatant disregard of states rights, in yet another instance when hypocrisy rules the day if it is convenient.

“We have to fight reciprocity,” State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel said during the forum. “Every state has their rights – who can own a gun. New York has strong laws, but in Vermont, you only need to be 16 years of age and have a drivers license and you can have a gun.” What reciprocity means is that if you have a gun permit in one state, you can have a gun – transfer guns, drive interstate (now illegal) – scary for someone like NY.” So if a state like Texas allows concealed guns everywhere (except the State House) with no questions asked, even a person with a mental condition, a veteran with PTSD or a domestic abuser, can bring their gun to New York.

As the level of gun violence has only escalated, the NRA has come back with more and more absurd statements (such as the time after a tragedy is no time to consider what to do about it), or a move to ease access to guns.

If anything gives lie to the absurdity, “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” and the even more absurd statement that the way to reduce gun violence is to make guns even more prevalent, it is the fact that gun violence kills 2500 children each year. You can also look to the murder of police officers, who are clearly “good guys” whose guns could not stop the bad guy who shot first.

In Chicago, just over Memorial Day weekend, 40 people were shot including a 4 year old girl, with nine dead, including,a 15-year old boy, Nation of Change reported.

“So far, there have been 18,760 gun incidents this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, resulting in 4,830 deaths and the death or injury of 249 children.”

There are practical things that can be done to significantly reduce the more than 30,000 gun deaths a year – that’s equivalent to a 9/11 a month – having nothing to do with violating the 2 nd Amendment or taking guns away from the ostensibly “law abiding” people (isn’t it odd that people are “law abiding” until they aren’t?)

But before we get into the long list of commonsense steps that should be taking immediately, without having any impact whatsoever on the so-called “law abiding” gunowners, there is this:

Gun Manufacturers Profit Incentive: Smart Guns

Much is made of the fact that the NRA, which is such an outsized powerhouse scaring the beejeebees out of politicians, serves the interests of gun manufacturers, not the ordinary members (a majority of whom support universal background checks and other commonsense measures).

In fact, the NRA was in favor of universal background checks until they were against them, and now, whenever there is a massacre, they call for more guns – armed guards at schools and churches, concealed carry at college campuses, in fact, everywhere but in Congress and Houses of Legislature.

So just like the corruption in FIFA won’t be rooted out politically, but when Nike and other sponsors exert their power, gun manufacturers have to see profit in being more socially conscious.

Jeb Bush speaking to 30,000 at the NRA convention, said Obama should be disarming ISIS rather than law-abiding Americans – the problem is that terrorists in the US have a clear shot at obtaining military-grade weapons and high-capacity ammo clips- while, in fact, DoD has radiofrequency controls in its military weapons so they can locate guns gone missing into the wrong hands. (Jeb! casually dismissed the Oregon shooting as “stuff happens”.)

Question is: why aren’t there ‘smart guns’ like ‘smart phones’ that can only be used by the person whose hand print is identified with the gun? Or, for that matter, a locater as a smart phone has when it is stolen, and can be located and disarmed remotely?

If the gun manufacturers would see themselves as, say, Apple Computers, coming out with the newest, latest gun that replaces the older gun, they could see big profits in sensible gun measure: namely, the same ID access that smart-phones now have: make the gun so that it can only be used by the owner. If the gun-owner is in fact law-abiding, they would have no problem with that, and would relish the idea of a gun not being snapped up by the “bad guy” (or a child) and used to kill their loved ones.

Think of the increased profits, if 100 million guns had to be replaced! Gun dealers could offer those nifty trade-in deals!

Change Tactics

The gun nuts have also long ceased being credible in arguing for “self-defense” and the “homespun, family values sport of hunting” when they refuse to allow a ban on military-grade assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that kill dozens in a blink of an eye. This is about the fantasy of being able to take down the government – something that the 2nd Amendment never envisioned, since it was intended to provide a defense for the fledgling democratic government in the absence of a standing army -like a National Guard.

It’s been 15 years since the Million Mom March in Washington DC (remember how they said if George W Bush were elected, there would be an office in the West Wing for the NRA? They were right.) Things clearly went downhill from there – for example, allowing the 1994 Assault Weapons ban to lapse.

Despite the rise of organizations like Moms Demand Action, Moms Rising, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Everytown and scores of others (typically, tragically, by family members like Richard Martinez whose lives have been forever destroyed by gun violence), Congress, in the pocket of the gun lobby, has refused to budge, and in the states, the reaction to what was considered the most heinous tragedy of all, the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was to free up, not tighten, gun restrictions (New York’s Safe Act was the exception).

It’s time to change tactics and the dynamics.

Abortions are constitutionally protected but the anti-choice movement has been able to put all sorts of legal and financial impediments that make it impossible for women to exercise their Constitutionally protected rights.

The gun violence prevention advocates should adopt some of these methods. For example:

State requirements: Just as California laws regarding automobiles and the chemicals industry have forced those industries to change their manufacture to be more environmentally friendly, states could impose requirements on gun manufacturers that every gun be a smart-gun; increase taxes on ammunition (like they do on cigarettes) and fees on gun permits (like voting IDs)

Make gun manufacturers and dealers liable when their product is inappropriately used (as so many other manufacturers are – gun manufacturers are somehow exempted.)

Require gun owners to take out liability insurance so that victims’ families can be adequately compensated.

Institute laws making parents/guardians responsible for safe storage, and criminally liable if a child commits a crime with their gun. For example, no one questioned where the 15 year old Jared Michael Padgett, of Portland, Oregon, obtained the gun he used to kill freshman Emilio Hoffman and wound teacher Todd Rispler before killing himself. Or where 14 year old Jaylen Fryberg, a popular student at Marysville, Wash. high school,, got the .40-caliber handgun he used to kill a girl and strike four others in the head before turning his gun on himself and committing suicide. There were no consequences for whoever obtained the guns that these minors used to murder innocents.

Put a fee on ammunition and gun purchases to support a victims fund.

Boycott college campuses that allow guns: Parents should contact colleges and ask if guns are allowed, and if so, tell them you won’t allow your child to apply there.

“I am, a huge believer that the American people can fix this,” Martin says. “I’ve lost faith in Congress, lost faith in the federal government, lost faith in the NRA – I was never much of a fan, my father tore up his NRA card in1980s, it was apparent to him what they were about: politicizing, a money racket, they are not standing for his ideals.

“Most gun owners are not in NRA… 90% of legitimate legal gun owners don’t support NRA. Who is supporting the NRA? The gun manufacturers – Smith-Wesson, Baretta. It’s no mystery that’s who they serve – the NRA is a front for gun manufacturers.

“Their job is to fend off, violently, any regulation that will impact the sale of their product – every gun that ends up on the street, used in a crime, begins as a legal gun –it was first sold as a legal gun – no illegal gun manufacturing plant anywhere.”

(And every criminal or maniac who uses a gun starts off as a noncriminal, non-maniac. Actually, you could add that whenever there is a massacre – the more heinous that it is – gun sales go up because LaPierre warns that the government will finally confiscate guns.)

Colette adds, “I’m a gun owner and here’s the impact [the NY Safe Act] had on me (she gestures, zero). I don’t have AR 15s in my basement – New York by any measure has done a great job keeping its citizens safe -the illegal street variety and more difficult gun violence.

“I am here today to deal with children’s and guns –standard, practical storage protocols. If you have children and guns in house, lock one of them up,” she said, drawing a laugh.

“1/3 of families own at least one gun – it behooves us to ask how it is stored at home.”

But in the absence of law, there are more practical actions parents should take: “Before you allow your child to go for a playdate, ask are there guns in house That’s not political, but safety. That’s a house I don’t want my kid playing unattended

It’s no more offensive than asking if there is a pool, or a dog. It’s not easy to plan a funeral for a 12 year old – that’s inconvenient.

“How many of these parents whose kids were shot this month would do anything to go back in time and ask that question. It’s not political, not offensive- not out of order to ask about the safety.”

Martin also refutes the claim that safe storage of guns at home will somehow interfere with the ability (rare) to defend from an intruder. She says that evidence shows that it takes a gun owner “fractions of seconds” to get a gun out of a safebox and load it.

In August, Fox & friends did 5 part gun safety series and part 3 featured expert marksmen, firearms dealer and trainer Rob Pincus, who did a live demo showing how long it took in an incidence of home invasion. Someone banged the door down downstairs, he went to the gun safe’s numeric keypad taking a half second to open it, she said.

On the other hand, the incidence of home invasion is so minimal, as are the instances of a gunowner actually foiling an intruder.

“The FBI did a study of home invasions and found that 68% of home invasions happen between parties that knew each other.”

What is more likely is that believing you are defending yourself against an armed intruder, results in accidentally killing your 19 year old who comes home unexpectedly from college at 3 am.

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